Britain has lived and breathed for thousands of years, but there's something special about 2023 that makes us catch our breath. There's a lot going on hereabouts, and nobody wants to miss a moment of it. Here are some of the moments that took our breath away this year. As this year comes to an end, we celebrate the myriad of things to do in London that makes the city whole.
1. Timely News
Scotland's greatest (formerly) living poet, Robert Burns, was born on January 25, 1759. His modern admirers honor his life's work with Burns' Suppers, an annual celebration of the best laid schemes o' mice an' men. At venues all over Scotland, revelers join up for haggis, turnips, potatoes, and a lively typsy laird.
The traditional Olney Pancake Race takes place in Olney Market Place, Buckinghamshire, every Shrove Tuesday in February before Ash Wednesday. This race got its start in 1445, when a local woman had to run across town because she was late to church.
Now, 600 years later, the Pancake Race is for all the women who've lived in town for at least 6 months and ends with English pancakes for all, no matter who wins.
Well Dressing Day happens at odd times and places all over Britain, mostly in May. It's a going thing in Derbyshire and Staffordshire, when festive crowds gather to dress their local well with garlands of spring flowers to give thanks for the gift of water.
June 17 is the King's Birthday, which has been an official holiday in the Sceptered Isle since the Tudors were on the throne. These days, the event sees royal foot guards and marching bands brightening up the streets of London with a parade that members of the Royal Family, like King Charles III, never miss.
Tickets always sell out fast, but there's no charge for gathering on the Mall and cheering for His Majesty and the Union Jack.
Every Christmas, market towns all over the UK host special Christmas markets on their High Streets. Market stalls are decorated with festive bunting and garlands of traditional Christmas wreaths. Almost every site has games and entertainment for the whole family, including plenty of things to do with kids.
Larger venues even have ice skating rinks set up, where the most athletic and brash can try their luck on at a triple-axle to holiday music.
2. Coldplay's Music of the Spheres Tour
The world-famous British minstrels of Coldplay have been celebrating the end of the pandemic since 2022, when the band launched an epic two-year-long tour around the world called Music of the Spheres.
Starting in Costa Rica in Spring 2022, they made their way to Europe and played dates on the continent all year long, finally dropping by Wembley Stadium for nine nights in August. The show hit the road for, among other places, South America, Australia, the United States, and Indonesia before promising to return to the British Isles before the scheduled end of the tour in 2024.
Watch for them to wrap up in Croke Park at three shows that recently set a record for the fastest sell-off of tickets in Irish history.
3. Hot Tickets — New Attractions & Experiences
There's no end of things to see and do in London. Once the capital of a global empire, it now benefits from that legacy with attractions from all over the world.
Remember, the Fifth of November with the Gunpowder Plot experience at 8-12 Tower Hill, London EC3N 4EE, where you can relive what should actually have been a terrifying scheme by radical sectarians to blow up Parliament with an immersive VR experience and snacks.
Guy Fawkes' Day has become a tradition in Britain, and cosplaying as the one hero who can foil the 1605 plot makes it all worthwhile, somehow.
If you’re scared of heights, you and the kids might not get to the top of the Cutty Sark Rig Climb. It’s open to the public at King William Walk, where the Sark has been moored since 1954. Helmets and safety harnesses are must-haves for all climbers, the way they totally weren't for the sailors who originally manned ye olde crow's nest back in the day. The focus is on fun for everyone.
They say Gotham City is supposed to be DC Comics' version of New York, but if that's the case, why is the insane asylum in London? Come along and visit the dark side of the DC universe at the Arkham Asylum immersive experience.
It was originally supposed to open in time for Halloween 2023. Unfortunately, bad luck has seen it delayed to the end of the year, which is more time to go properly mad and get fit to be tied with the Joker.
4. Foodies Rejoice — New Places to Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
Daphne’s in South Kensington has gone all out for the Christmas holiday. Merging a wintry English aesthetic with the gaudy grandeur of an Italian festivale, this upscale dining spot is adorned with tasteful white lanterns, giant glass chandeliers, and mountains of ornaments and floral arrangements in the fireplace dining room.
We haven't tried the tiramisu (yet), but the atmosphere alone makes the visit worthwhile.
The Ski Lodge at The Montague on the Gardens has always been London's premiere winter haven. It has a darling Swiss chalet aesthetic straight off a box of Swiss Miss and a spacious wooden deck out back, but they've gone all out for the 2023 season.
Dropping real snow on the deck, this combination restaurant/hotel has made a pine forest out of its garden, where you can get a piping hot chocolate or try the mulled wine.
Did you ever read Dickens and think, "This book is pretty good, but it would be better if it was set in a glamorous New York loft with lots of extra seating and some Dean Martin music playing softly for atmosphere"? If that describes your teen years, we've found the place for you at The Little Scarlet Door in SoHo.
This cozy hotspot is a warm and inviting little nook that's tucked in a cranny you'd never find without a local friend to show you where it's at. Beyond the scarlet red door, there's a gigantic Christmas tree and stockings all hung up with care in the hopes that an after-dinner crowd of about 12 will be there.
5. Accommodation — New Places to Rest Your Head
Kinloch Lodge is the kind of place people save up their whole lives to someday spend a weekend in. This rambling 16th-century manse tucks itself into the heather around scenic loch Na Dal, Isle of Skye, in a scene begging to be painted by Bob Ross. The beds were built by hand when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne, and they're big enough to fit your whole life in them.
Every room has a panoramic view of the loch, and you're never far from rustic ghillies and moors and probably a couple of cabers to boot. There’s also a masseur who can give you a high-intensity relaxation session.
Afterwards, you'll be allowed to melt into a puddle by the stone fireplace with a flagon of mead. Spare a kind word for Clan McDonald, which has protected the land from Sidhe since the wee early days of the lairds.
A quaint French country house is the ideal of rustic luxury for many modern British city-dwellers, if only the closest one wasn't inconveniently located in France. However, the Belmond le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is in Oxfordshire and is such a faithful reproduction of the French cottage style that it actually flies a Tricolor flag.
This heavyset stone building dates to the 15th century, when English kings actually spoke French, and it luxuriates in exposed ceiling beams bigger than a ship's keel and a stone fire pit in the great hall that's worthy of Sir William Marshall.
Book a room in the Provence wing and you'll retire to your chamber past rows of ivy climbing over mortarless stone walls that were laid before America was discovered.
6. New Ways to Discover the Great Outdoors
The Lake District is as far from London as it's possible to get without being Scottish, and the landscape here couldn't look less like a concrete city jungle if it was trying. Mountains jut above the Cumbrian moors with blankets of green turf seeming to cling to their lower layers as if the grass was reluctant to let the mountains rise.
The lakes are crystal-clear, unlike the poems of Coleridge, who spent a good deal of his creative life here. You can walk, you can hike, you can even take a mountain bike over parts of this World Heritage site, but be careful, the locals love the place as much as we do, and they're fiercely protective of what they call "one of the only places left."
The River Thames is the iconic artery of Britain, flowing as it does through the capital, showcasing the diverse London architecture along its banks and carrying zillions of dollars worth of commercial traffic out the estuary every day. But where does it start?
Officially, the Thames begins flowing from Thames Head, a little pond near Kemble in the Cotswolds. That's not it at all, however, and there's actually a little tiny spring a few miles away that you can fritter a happy afternoon away looking for.
It's a silly mission, but it takes you around the horse paddocks, over the dales, through Mrs. McGinnis' flower beds, and into a lovely scenic country stroll in a place where the passers-by still call you "deary" when you wave. Pro tip: If you actually find the spring, don't tell anyone where it's at. We don't want to spoil the adventure for the next folks.
Our Guide for the Perfect London Night!
Planning your London itinerary? Make time for a Cirque du Soleil show while we’re in town!
7. England on the Screen 2023
How quintessentially British is "Enys Men," the new film currently playing in theaters all over the UK? Well, there's no plot, it's set on the Cornish coast, and the main character doesn't have a name. This is the follow-up to Mark Jenkin's 2019 film "Bait," and it's a bleak, windswept period piece set in the days before May Day 1973.
The movie is 100% atmosphere, with dramatic sweeping shots that have been richly saturated in color and blocked by a cinematographer who might be a poet in his spare time. This film is all about the elements on the harsh Cornish coast, the same place the Lusitania was lost, and the mood is pure bangers-and-mash Britain.
Hugh Grant once said all British comedy revolves around a hapless man trying not to be horribly embarrassed in public. In that vein, imagine you've checked into a quaint rural B&B, only to be seated across the breakfast table from your long-estranged husband and his new girlfriend, who kind of looks like a younger version of you.
That's the conceit that drives "She Is Love," a sort-of comedy from Jamie Adams. This film was among the select few chosen for the BFI London Film Festival, and it's worth a date-watch with somebody special if you're close to one of the theaters where it's showing.
Embrace the English Experience
There's so much to see and do if you're lucky enough to be in the UK in 2023. From the major events in 2023 that have drawn hundreds of thousands to the holiday-centered events in the UK and scenic treasures far afield, you don't have an excuse to be bored in historic Albion.
If by chance you do have some time on your hands and you're looking for a spectacular event in London you can take the whole family to see, come and see us in person at our shows in London in 2023 and beyond. Revel in one of our whimsical performances, an acrobatics- and music-filled menagerie of awe and wonder.